My Baby’s Legs Are Different Lengths – What Could Be the Cause?

Hip Dysplasia

By: Red Door Pediatric Therapy Staff

As a parent, noticing any differences or irregularities in your baby’s development can be concerning. One such observation might be that one of your baby’s legs appears longer than the other. While this difference in leg length can be worrying, there are various factors that could contribute to this disparity. In this article, we will explore common red flags for infant hip dysplasia, explain potential causes using simple terms, and provide an overview of how a physical therapist may address or correct this issue.

Understanding Red Flags for Infant Hip Dysplasia:

When it comes to infant hip dysplasia, there are several signs that may indicate a potential problem. If you notice any of the following red flags, it is important to consult with your pediatrician:

  1. Asymmetrical leg folds: Pay attention to the appearance of your baby’s leg folds. If one side seems deeper or higher than the other, it could be an indication of hip dysplasia.
  2. Limited range of motion: Observe how your baby moves their legs. If one leg has restricted movement or seems less flexible compared to the other, it could be a cause for concern.
  3. Uneven leg length: If one leg appears visibly longer than the other, it might suggest an abnormality in the hip joint’s development.

Understanding Potential Causes:

Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint does not form correctly. It can happen due to various reasons, including:

  1. Genetic factors: Some infants may have a higher risk of hip dysplasia due to a family history of the condition. Certain genes can influence how the hip joint develops.
  2. Positioning in the womb: The position your baby assumes in the uterus can affect hip development. If the hip joint is continuously compressed or not given enough room to move, it may lead to dysplasia.
  3. Swaddling or baby carriers: Improper swaddling techniques or the prolonged use of baby carriers (such as car seats, swings, bumbo chairs, etc) that restrict healthy hip movement can contribute to hip dysplasia.
  4. Hormonal factors: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect the development of the hip joint, potentially leading to dysplasia.

Addressing and Correcting the Issue with a Physical Therapist:

If your baby is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, a physical therapist may play a crucial role in their treatment. Here are a few common approaches they might take:

  1. Hip harness or brace: Your child’s pediatrician or physical therapist may recommend the use of a special harness, Pavlik brace, or spica cast to position your baby’s hips in a way that encourages proper joint development.
  2. Exercises and stretches: Therapists may guide you in performing gentle exercises and stretches that promote hip mobility and strengthen the surrounding muscles. These exercises can support the hip and promote better bone development to correct its positioning. 
  3. Parent education: Physical therapists often provide valuable guidance to parents on how to position, carry, and handle their baby to support hip development and prevent further complications.
  4. Monitoring and follow-up: Your physical therapist will monitor your baby’s progress closely, making adjustments to the treatment plan as needed. Regular check-ups, from both your physical therapist and your doctor, will ensure that the hip dysplasia is addressed effectively.
If you observe that one of your baby’s legs appears longer than the other, it’s important to consult your pediatrician. While it can be alarming, there are various factors that may contribute to this difference in leg length, including hip dysplasia. By understanding the red flags and potential causes, you can take the necessary steps to address the issue promptly. Remember, with proper care, guidance from healthcare professionals, and the expertise of a physical therapist, your baby’s hip dysplasia can be managed effectively, allowing for healthy development and growth.